As an increasing number of smartphone manufacturers is now embracing display holes as an alternative to notches that allows them to continue improving the screen-to-body ratios of their devices without sacrificing their front-facing cameras, more innovative solutions in the segment are starting to appear. Cue one such concept from Chinese electronics giant OPPO that devised a sneaky clever method of masking mobile screen punch-holes. The company's latest idea is to use software tricks to make those display imperfections less obvious, not unlike how manufacturers already resolved to make traditional notches less aggressive.
As showcased in the illustration above, OPPO experimented with the concept of relying on conventional app icons in order to mask front-facing cameras literally penetrating mobile displays. In fact, the firm appears to be optimistic enough about its solution that it even resolved to patent it, which is how its existence came to light. In practice, the software solution would consistently keep a camera app icon on top of (or, better said - around) the actual front-facing camera of the device so as to blend the glaring physical imperfection with its design and make it significantly harder to notice.
Users would be able to summon and dismiss the hole-hiding app tray with a single swipe gesture performed on a predetermined area of the screen, the patent reads. The wording of OPPO's description of the solution also appears to confirm what's already rather obvious - the trick would work exclusively in conjunction with a default camera app icon or one designed specifically for that purpose. In other words, the firm didn't come up with a way to adapt something like an Instagram icon into a front-facing camera camouflage.
2019: the year of the hole
Whereas the subject of display notches remains rather polarizing among smartphone enthusiasts, screen holes that are now poised to replace them do appear to be somewhat more subtle in regards to how they affect the overall design of contemporary handsets. Still, efforts meant to hide even those smaller imperfections are a clear indication that manufacturers' focus groups are telling them what many already presumed - consumers don't want asymmetrical screens, at least if they can help it.
That isn't to say notches, punch-holes, and similar elements are a major drawback relative to the overall package, as evidenced by the continued success of Apple's last couple of iPhone generations. Still, the majority of the industry now appears to be pursuing punctured screen as an alternative to more sizable cutouts, with some industry watchers already pointing to that effort as one of the main 2019 trends in the smartphone sector. Coupled with foldable displays, flexible batteries, cryptocurrency wallets, and next-generation depth-sensing cameras, modern handsets are about to get a lot weirder this year.
Whether weird is what the market should be striving for right now remains to be seen but the latest estimates from industry trackers suggest global smartphone sales were down over four percentage points last year so something certainly needs to change in the near term because the mobile segment was never good with waiting for consumers to run their old devices into the ground - it needs to be able to sell them on the latest products every year and that's something it's been failing to do since 2017.